Best foot forward: eco friendly footwear

cool shoes
From Melissa to Brooks, eco-friendly shoes are more stylish than ever

From the chemicals used to tan leather to the deforestation caused by creeping rubber plantations, footwear has a serious impact on the environment. More than 127 million pairs of shoes are made and sold each year; a large proportion of which are made from conventional cotton and PVC. The impact of growing cotton is well documented, putting enormous pressure on local water supplies and using vast quantities of agrochemicals. PVC, apart from being a non-biodegradable synthetic, also contains plasticisers, which have been linked to allergies and cancer in humans. Despite the impact of these materials, green designers have been slow to come up with a stylish riposte to the conventional shoe industry. But thanks to the likes of Melissa, Stella McCartney and Brooks, this could all be about to change.

One of the charges frequently levelled at the green fashion industry is that it just isn’t that cool. From hemp waistcoats to twisted rope sandals, critics are quick to point out its limited appeal. A decade ago, they had a point. Now, however, things are different with designers such as Christopher Raeburn, Edun and Minna proving that going green doesn’t mean waving goodbye to style. While eco-fashion’s many success stories have begun getting the attention they deserve, footwear has been slower to catch on, which is a shame as there are lots of ultra-cool options to choose from. Brooks’ Lady Infiniti 2 Running Shoes, £59.95 at, come in silver and are fully biodegradable. Shoe designer Melissa’s collaboration with Vivienne Westwood continues to bear trendy fruit, including this season’s fabulous Amazonas vegan, Fairtrade heels, £83 at Also worth a look are French sports shoe brand, Veja, vegan label Neuaura and coolest of all, Olsenhaus, which does shoeboots good enough to wean even the most dedicated fashionista off her Manolos.

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